Martian Dust Storm Grows Global: Curiosity Captures Photos of Thickening Haze

In June 2018 NASA’s Curiosity Rover used its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, to snap photos of the intensifying haziness the surface of Mars, caused by a massive dust storm. The rover is standing inside Gale Crater looking out to the crater rim. The photos span about a couple of weeks, starting with a shot of the area before the storm appeared. (Credits: NASA)

GALE CRATER, Mars (NASA PR) — A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.

The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event.

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NASA to Host Live Discussion on New Mars Science Results on Thursday

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)

The media and public are invited to ask questions during a live discussion at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 7, on new science results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover. The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then.

The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications, in NASA’s Planetary Science Division will host the chat. Participants include:

  • Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Jen Eigenbrode, research scientist at Goddard
  • Chris Webster, senior research fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
  • Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist, JPL

The public can send questions on social media by using #askNASA. The event can also be watched on Facebook LiveTwitch TVUstreamYouTube and Twitter/Periscope.

For information about NASA’s Curiorsity rover, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/msl

GAO: Restore-L Mission Schedule is Lagging

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s Restore-L project — which aims to demonstrate on-orbit satellite servicing by refueling the Landsat 7 satellite — is running behind schedule due to funding and technical issues, according to an audit from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Scientists Shrink Chemistry Lab to Seek Evidence of Life on Mars

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — An international team of scientists has created a tiny chemistry lab for a rover that will drill beneath the Martian surface looking for signs of past or present life. The toaster oven-sized lab, called the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer or MOMA, is a key instrument on the ExoMars Rover, a joint mission between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, with a significant contribution to MOMA from NASA. It will be launched toward the Red Planet in July 2020.

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Lucy Asteroid Mission Moves Toward 2021 Launch

Southwest Research Institute is leading NASA’s Lucy mission, which will launch in 2021 for the first reconnaissance of the Trojans, a population of primitive asteroids orbiting in tandem with Jupiter. In this artist’s concept (not to scale), the Lucy spacecraft is flying by Eurybates, one of the six diverse and scientifically important Trojans to be studied. (Credit: SwRI)

The first mission to explore Trojan asteroids that orbit in tandem with Jupiter is moving forward toward a late 2021 launch date using heritage hardware that has already been tested in space, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

“Project officials characterize the Lucy design as low risk because it does not require development of any critical technologies and has a high heritage design,” the GAO found. “For example, these officials stated that Lucy’s design has the same architecture as prior NASA projects such as Juno and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN).

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Mars Needs Women — NASA Needs Everybody

Credit: American International Television

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In the 1967 film, Mars Needs Women, a team of martians invades Earth to kidnap women to help repopulate their dying species. Shot over two weeks on a minuscule budget and padded out with stock footage, the movie obtained cult status as one of those cinematic disasters that was so bad it was unintentionally hilarious.

A half century later, NASA finds itself in a not entirely dissimilar situation. Only this problem is not nearly as funny.

The space agency lacks sufficient personnel with the proper skill sets to undertake its complex missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. A number of key programs have been affected by the shortfall already.

NASA’s workforce is also aging. More than half the agency’s employees are 50 years and older, with one-fifth  currently eligible for retirement. Finding replacement workers with the right mix of skills is not always easy as NASA faces increased competition from a growing commercial space sector.

The space agency is addressing these challenges, but it’s too early to tell how successful these efforts will be, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

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NASA’s New Planet Hunter Snaps Initial Test Image, Swings by Moon Toward Final Orbit

This test image from one of the four cameras aboard the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) captures a swath of the southern sky along the plane of our galaxy. TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times the amount of sky shown in this image when using all four of its cameras during science operations. (Credits: NASA/MIT/TESS)

GREEBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s next planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is one step closer to searching for new worlds after successfully completing a lunar flyby on May 17. The spacecraft passed about 5,000 miles from the Moon, which provided a gravity assist that helped TESS sail toward its final working orbit.

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NASA’s New Dellingr Spacecraft Baselined for Pathfinding CubeSat Mission to Van Allen Belts

Studying the Van Allen radiation belts (illustrated here) is the scientific goal of a recently awarded GTOSat, which will use a more capable 6U CubeSat bus, the Dellingr-X. (Credit: NASA)

By Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — A new CubeSat mission — GTOSat — will not only provide key observations of the environmentally forbidding radiation belts that encircle Earth, it will provide initial steps of a new technological vision.

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CubeSats Readied for NASA’s First Venture Class Launch

Technicians examine at CubeSat at Rocket Lab USA’s facility in California. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (NASA PR) — A host of CubeSats, or small satellites, are undergoing the final stages of processing at Rocket Lab USA’s facility in Huntington Beach, California, for NASA’s first mission dedicated solely to spacecraft of their size. This will be the first launch under the agency’s new Venture Class Launch Services.

Scientists, including those from NASA and various universities, began arriving at the facility in early April with spacecraft small enough to be a carry-on to be prepared for launch.

A team from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, completed final checkouts of a CubeSat called the Compact Radiation Belt Explorer (CeREs), before placing the satellite into a dispenser to hold the spacecraft during launch inside the payload fairing. Among its missions, the satellite will examine the radiation belt and how electrons are energized and lost, particularly during events called microbursts — when sudden swarms of electrons stream into the atmosphere.

This facility is the final stop for designers and builders of the CubeSats, but the journey will continue for the spacecraft. Rocket Lab will soon ship the satellites to New Zealand for launch aboard the company’s Electron orbital rocket on the Mahia Peninsula this summer.

The CubeSats will be flown on an Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission to space through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. CeREs is one of the 10 ELaNa CubeSats scheduled to be a part of this mission.

NASA Prepares to Launch Next Mission to Search Sky for New Worlds

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is undergoing final preparations in Florida for its April 16 launch to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars, providing targets where future studies will assess their capacity to harbor life.

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NASA, ATLAS to Mature Portable Space Communications Technology

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Portable ground antenna stations could transform NASA’s space communications capabilities. With access to undeveloped regions, the mobile systems could bolster the return of spacecraft science, instrument health and other data to Earth.

NASA and ATLAS Space Operations, based in Traverse City, Michigan, are collaborating to test and develop this technology. The company’s compact, internet-managed antenna system called ATLAS LINKS will undergo testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to determine its compatibility with NASA’s ground-based communications network, the Near Earth Network.

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NOAA’s GOES-S to Boost Weather Forecast Accuracy for Western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

The GOES-S satellite being lowered into a thermal vacuum chamber. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

More detailed observations will improve marine, aviation forecasts and wildfire detection

WASHINGTON, DC. (NOAA PR) — NOAA is three days away from launching GOES-S, its newest geostationary weather satellite that will begin providing faster, more accurate data to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, dense fog, and other hazards that threaten the western U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska.

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”

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On Second Thought, the Moon’s Water May Be Widespread and Immobile

If the Moon has enough water, and if it’s reasonably convenient to access, future explorers might be able to use it as a resource. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — A new analysis of data from two lunar missions finds evidence that the Moon’s water is widely distributed across the surface and is not confined to a particular region or type of terrain. The water appears to be present day and night, though it’s not necessarily easily accessible.

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NASA’s Next Exoplanet Satellite Arrives at NASA Kennedy

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final preparations for launch. (Credits: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s next planet-hunting mission has arrived in Florida to begin preparations for launch. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station nearby NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than April 16, pending range approval.

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Self-Driving Servicer Now Baselined for NASA’s Restore-L Satellite-Servicing Demonstration

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

CAPTION:

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — One test changed the fortunes of an advanced 3-D imaging lidar system now baselined for NASA’s Restore-L project that will demonstrate an autonomous satellite-servicing capability.

Officials with NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division, or SSPD, have officially baselined the Kodiak system — formerly known as the Goddard Reconfigurable Solid-state Scanning Lidar, or GRSSLi — to provide real-time images and distance-ranging information during Restore-L. This project will demonstrate how a specially equipped robotic servicer spacecraft can extend a satellite’s lifespan — even one not originally designed for on-orbit servicing.

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